Today while waiting for my daughter to get out of work, I sat in a parking lot and watched a man who must of been in his early eighties back out of a parking space. He did so without first checking to see if the way was clear, and narrowly missed hitting a pedestrian walking behind his SUV and another driver looking for a parking space.
I looked into his eyes as he drove past me and he looked rather lost, and not quite in tune with the world around him. I remember having the thought that he could easily be one of those old men you hear about who kill themselves while going the wrong way on a major highway, talking on their cell phones to their equally old, equally vague spouses about how they can’t understand why everyone is going the wrong way down the highway.
I thought about how scary that is, the thought that at any moment a not quite all there old person can have a car accident that takes their life and/or the life of another. That thinking of course led me to the question, are we really doing all we can to make sure that the elderly can safely operate a motor vehicle before we continue to allow them to do so? Which of course brings us to the question, “how old is “too old” to drive a car?
We as a society have a lot of freedom as long as we follow the rules set out for us. We have always given drivers of age the freedom to get behind the wheel, but we do check up on them before blindly renewing their license after they reach a certain age. In Ontario that age is 80. After that age licenses must be renewed every two years and there are hoops to jump through.
The government has a website giving tips to drivers 80+. I find this laughable because I don’t know that many 80+ citizens that use a computer never mind the internet! Websites are clearly not the answer here!
After what I witnessed this morning in the parking lot and the questions it raised in my mind I of course did a little research on the subject, and came across an article in the Toronto Star from February of this year. I have quoted it here below:
In the wake of a Star series on drivers with cognitive impairment, Chiarelli predicted there will be a “tightening across the board” of the system that allows many seniors with dementia to drive unchecked.
Um…am I reading this right? “drivers with dementia” WTF???
If we have to draft new laws to prevent people from having the legal right to drive after being diagnosed with dementia there are some serious holes in the laws that exist, and we are definitely not doing enough to ensure those on the road are competent drivers!
A different Star article states:
The depth of Ontario’s challenge was underlined in a Star investigation by Moira Welsh and Julian Sher. Citing a Queen’s University study, they report that the number of drivers in this province with dementia is expected to double to almost 100,000 by 2028, up from an estimated 45,000 today.
Are you SERIOUS? 45,000 drivers with dementia randomly driving around the province behind the wheel of machines capable of some serious destruction and possible loss of life? That is so far beyond unacceptable I truly don’t know what to call it! It also seriously begs us to ask the question “why the hell are people with dementia being allowed to continue driving?”
The same article goes on to say:
Many of those drivers have difficulty making complex decisions due to their condition or the side-effects of medication, yet they remain behind the wheel. Doctors who are supposed to report anyone who is unfit to drive aren’t necessarily doing so, either out of concern for a patient’s quality of life or because they aren’t adequately trained to assess people’s driving abilities.
Whether or not a doctor is capable of assessing someone’s driving abilities should they not be required to report even mild cases of dementia in patients with valid drivers licenses? You would think that should be something of note, no?
The province doesn’t require mandatory road testing of drivers over 80, only that they pass a vision and written test every two years, as well as attending an education session. And unlike such provinces as Saskatchewan, Ontario doesn’t have a graduated licence system for those with gradually eroding skills, easing them toward staying off the road through restrictions such as a ban on night driving or on using major highways.
This statement begs the question “why has a graduated license system not been introduced in Ontario?” Apparently, it’s in the works. Of course with parliament prorogued there is no telling how long it will be before we can expect not to have to worry about those 45,000 drivers with dementia behind the wheels of their potential killing machines.
Wow! Government seriously needs to start concentrating on the real threats to health and safety and not the imagined media inflated petty BS being pushed by ego inflated glorified college grade reporters in main stream media!!
I mean geez! There are people out there driving around with unreported dementia! Yikes! Now I have to worry about bad drivers and drivers who may or may not remember how to drive or that they are driving at any given moment? Suddenly I’d rather take the bus!